Roundtable: Clemson's recruiting boon and the Chad Morris era

Clemson 2014  High School Football Camp I - Mitch Hyatt

Clemson 2014 High School Football Camp I - Mitch Hyatt

In the first in our summer series taking an in-depth look at the Clemson football program and the season ahead, our panel breaks down the Tigers’ recruiting success and a possible factor in that down the road…

Clemson has a top-three rated class 2015 per 247Sports’ Composite - is this kind of success sustainable, finishing this class and future classes? Is there a breaking point in on-field success, especially against rival schools, that will affect that anytime soon?

O&W editor Kerry Capps: There are so many factors at play in recruiting that it's difficult to make specific down-the-road predictions. But my feeling is that Dabo and his staff have built, and are still refining, a self-sustaining recruiting system that has a very good chance of establishing an elite presence over a long period of time. The implementation of a more sophisticated, better organized and longer-range recruiting plan was one of the first things Swinney implemented when he got the coaching job on a permanent basis in 2009. If you recall, the coaching staff nailed down a small 2009 class - Dabo called it his 'dandy dozen' - and then focused the bulk of its time and resources in evaluating players and developing relationships for 2010 and 2011. That approach put Clemson ahead of the curve in responding to the rapidly accelerating recruiting timetable.

Swinney also developed a strong message - a brand even - about the so-called 'Clemson Family,' and he and his staff continue to beat that drum to great success. Add in the program's high-profile religious component, and the message that 'we'll take care of your son and makes sure he leaves here with a degree' that resonates so strongly with parents, and you begin to get a feel for how all-encompassing and finely-played Clemson's recruiting effort really is. Facilities and success on the field help immensely, as well, and it certainly doesn't hurt in recruiting the next group of elite skill players when the last four receivers who've gone on the NFL have signed contracts worth more than $30 million and two recent running backs - CJ Spiller and Andre Ellington - have been rated among the top 20 backs in the NFL.

So, I'd say that this year's recruiting success is more of a culmination than a flash in the pan. As long as the staff remains relatively stable, I would expect it to continue.

While success, or a lack of success, against high-profile rivals certainly plays a part in big-picture recruiting patterns, I think it's very rare that the outcome of a particular game determines which school a prospect chooses. There are just too many other factors involved. I recall asking Dabo last signing day about the relatively few numbers of evenly-contested, head-to-head, flip-a-coin recruiting battles between Clemson and South Carolina. He said that while it happens occasionally, most of the time he has a feeling from the get-go whether a prospect is a 'Clemson guy' or a 'Carolina guy.'

O&W contributor Marty Coleman: The Tigers have been on a roll lately and there's no reason to believe that any current commits will change their mind between now and February. That said, when I was 18 I changed my mind more than I changed my underwear so I tend not to count on a recruit until he signs and is on campus.

With Clemson's class being almost full this early I can see the Tigers getting passed by a couple of teams in the standings, but longer term I like what seems to be happening - recruiting not just South Carolina, but Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and even Virginia. The 2014 class included 9 from South Carolina, 6 from Georgia, 4 from North Carolina and only 2 from Florida (and one from Maryland).

Clemson is often mentioned as a team that heavily recruits Florida by national pundits because of super stars like C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins, but the truth is the bulk of the snaps come from the Carolinas and Georgia as my analysis of the 2012 season showed.

I'm a big believer in recruiting going in cycles and the Tigers are in a good cycle right now. The good cycles can be prolonged by winning, performing well on national TV, an explosive offense or even a nationally recognized tradition like running down the hill or even a paw on the side of your helmet. Those of us who attended Clemson like to think the place sells itself and wonder why anyone would ever choose another college, but the reality is there's a variety of reasons recruits go elsewhere and some are better off for it (and Clemson is sometimes better off, too).

South Carolina being a smaller state means sustained success at the current level is going to be more difficult for Clemson than say a Florida State or Texas just because of the numbers, but it can be done and we may be seeing the beginning of that right now and that's important because the Tigers are going to need to sustain this level of recruiting to keep pace with Florida State and Miami.

My opinion is the rivalry game with South Carolina means more to fans and alumni than it does recruits deciding on a school, because I don't get the sense that Clemson and South Carolina fight over that many recruits and when they do, the recruit typically favors one school or the other if he is in-state and for those out of state the rivalry results are not generally a deal breaker either way.

A bigger deal to recruits is putting players in the NFL. Do that consistently and they will come.

O&W beat writer Brandon Rink: Money talks – in terms of facilities, resources and staff in recruiting, and it’s no coincidence Clemson’s recruiting picked up first with the construction of the WestZone…and has really kicked into gear with the advent of NCAA-approved recruiting-centered staffers and renovations in the WestZone and locker room. Throw in a coaching staff that’s been largely intact for several years running and Swinney and co. are on absolute fire right now with plenty to sell.

While recruiting isn’t always directly tied to on-field results – Florida State and South Carolina are on the schedule each and every year – and they’re both hitting the trail hard.

The Seminoles haven’t had a non-top-10 class under Jimbo Fisher, stockpiling constellations of stars at each position.

After plucking some of the state’s best talent lately, South Carolina has branched out and isn’t far behind Clemson in its 2015 commit conquests (No. 6 with 18 commits).

No one expects the Tigers to go to FSU and win this year, but another home loss in 2015 will certainly effect the Sunshine State recruiting.

Clemson and South Carolina aren’t always sparring partners on the recruiting trail, but a sixth-straight loss and third-straight in the Valley could be enough to do some damage here.

So to answer the question(s), one is tied to the other. Swinney and co. are selling a “quest for best,” but without results in the right games, that becomes a tough sell to recruits down the road.

Tied to future recruiting, while Chad Morris is no longer the nation’s highest-paid coordinator by a few bucks, the success has been there and there’s that feeling each December he’ll jump for a head coaching job. Peer into your crystal ball, how long is the rest of his stay in TigerTown?

Rink: Each offseason comes with its own unique coaching carousel – some more active (2012) than others (2013). And here, after three seasons of rewriting Clemson and ACC offensive records, Chad Morris is still the Tigers’ OC.

But going into fifth season as a college coordinator, he’s only on his third starting quarterback (Cole Stoudt or/and Deshaun Watson). And while the Tiger offense has come a long ways over the last three seasons, its’ efficiency – especially against the tougher opponents on the schedule – leaves plenty of boxes to check off for the 45-year-old Texan.

Point being, we’re not expecting a major drop-off this year, which will keep Morris a hot-name come December, but with a five-star QB at the helm – and a host of talent around him, 2015 shapes up to be the Clemson’s best title-contention shot in recent memory.

Therefore, given no “dream job” targets him (like say, alma mater Texas A&M if Kevin Sumlin moves on) – Morris is around for at least this season and next.

Capps: I don't know if this makes any logical sense, but my gut feeling on Chad Morris is that the longer he stays, the less likely he is to leave - especially now that Deshaun Watson, his chosen one, is safe and secure on campus. I think it would take a pretty special job to tear Morris away from Clemson right now, especially as long as the Tigers sustain their offensive success. That kind of offer could happen any time, of course. But my feeling is that Morris is more focused on perfecting his grand offensive experiment than in becoming an even-higher-paid head coach.

His career-advancement track has been anything but orthodox, and I think that works in Clemson's favor. There's very little by-the-book about Chad Morris, so I'm beginning to think that most of our job-carousel assumptions just may not apply.

Coleman: Chad Morris is going to leave Clemson some day and when that happens I'll say, "Thank you for making Clemson football fun again and good luck." He's stayed long enough to earn my respect for not jumping at the first opportunity like a lot of coaches would have.

I thought he may have left after last season, simply because Boyd and Watkins were gone and it seemed like a good time to transition. He proved me wrong (whether it was his choice or a family related decision) and perhaps he wants to prove that it wasn't just Sammy and/or Tajh, but his system that has made the Clemson offense potent.

While Morris seems to be holding out for the "right opportunity" I do wonder if he'll end up taking a job similar to what Malzahn did at Arkansas State (and this where I thought he may have landed this season) in order to land a big time job down the road because I'm just not sure how many power conference teams teams that are good jobs are going to hire a coach with no head coaching experience.

Morris' time at Clemson is nearing an end. He'll be 46 in December and there's a fine line between being loyal and being labeled a career coordinator. Morris has clearly stated he wants to be a head coach and if the 2014 Clemson offense hums along post Boyd and Watkins this year he may be in demand more than ever and it could end up being the perfect time for Morris to take the next step.

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Comments » 17

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

I don't think Chad Morris is leaving anytime in the near future unless the Alabama job or one of the top Texas schools offers him a head job. I think he likes the Clemson area...who doesn't and he is happy at Clemson, I believe. He makes plenty of money and I realize money is not the driving factor now. As far as recruiting goes, Dabo has to get the credit for that because he has taken us to another level. TB got real good players but they never excelled like the ones we have now. Of course, TB never had a top 3 class either. We have done quite well getting the talent and the assistant coaches know how to coach them. As said, the coaching staff will not stay the same indefinitely but, maybe for another 3 or 4 years. That's a big wish but, it's possible. It is proven you win with top recruits that are coached well and at this particular time in Clemson football history we are at the top of the world in both segments that make a great football program.

MoncksTater writes:

I see absolutely no reason that as long as Dabo continues with his vision in facilities upgrades and his recruiting plan that Clemson cannot find and replace each years losses with the next cycles touted recruits. Clemson IS special , and when kids come to Clemson for the first visit that most certainly shows up and helps our chances going into signing them.
If schools in the middle of nowhere like Oregon and Mizzou can claim elite recruits and be considered nationally relevant then there is little doubt that Clemson University should expect the same .
Swinney has had an incredible beginning , and when he rights the ship against Sackerlina (and he will) and solves the juco conundrum (and he will ) there will be even better recruiting results ...although with the last three cycles one could argue that it really couldn't stand to get that much better in Tigertown .
GO TIGERS !!!

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

in response to MoncksTater:

I see absolutely no reason that as long as Dabo continues with his vision in facilities upgrades and his recruiting plan that Clemson cannot find and replace each years losses with the next cycles touted recruits. Clemson IS special , and when kids come to Clemson for the first visit that most certainly shows up and helps our chances going into signing them.
If schools in the middle of nowhere like Oregon and Mizzou can claim elite recruits and be considered nationally relevant then there is little doubt that Clemson University should expect the same .
Swinney has had an incredible beginning , and when he rights the ship against Sackerlina (and he will) and solves the juco conundrum (and he will ) there will be even better recruiting results ...although with the last three cycles one could argue that it really couldn't stand to get that much better in Tigertown .
GO TIGERS !!!

Yea, you are right. And it's gonna be hard to beat this year's class. Number 2 by ESPN. If we have a great season this year and play in the playoffs, we could be the number one recruiting class next year. It is very possible.

TigerNE writes:

I try not to get too excited by the #2-3-4-5 ranking right now depending on which "experts" you read. As was said, the guys have to sign by the deadline in 2015, and we have some recent annoying experiences that say it doesn't happen 100% of the time.

But more important is how the guys who finally sign are ultimately ranked. Will Hyatt stay a 5 star? Will Deon Cain move from 4 to 5? Whose numbers? ESPN? 247? If we keep getting these good recruits, I care less about whether we get the same kind of SEC ratings favoritism or not. If they come and play like Beasley, Watkins, Hopkins, etc. that's all that matters. The kids who get drawn into the SEC flashiness are probably not good fits anyway.

f8thwlk writes:

It's amazing what winning a few ballgames will do for the recruiting effort.

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

in response to TigerNE:

I try not to get too excited by the #2-3-4-5 ranking right now depending on which "experts" you read. As was said, the guys have to sign by the deadline in 2015, and we have some recent annoying experiences that say it doesn't happen 100% of the time.

But more important is how the guys who finally sign are ultimately ranked. Will Hyatt stay a 5 star? Will Deon Cain move from 4 to 5? Whose numbers? ESPN? 247? If we keep getting these good recruits, I care less about whether we get the same kind of SEC ratings favoritism or not. If they come and play like Beasley, Watkins, Hopkins, etc. that's all that matters. The kids who get drawn into the SEC flashiness are probably not good fits anyway.

You are so right when talking about the SEC and the recruits not being a good fit. I have commented on that exact thing before. At Clemson, we look at their character and their ability to play football, whereas most SEC schools don't care about character. That is proven almost every year 4 or 5 times at least. Yes, the ACC and Clemson have our share of "problem children" but compared to the SEC is quite mild. The difference in the two conferences is the difference in night and day when it comes to integrity and how they run their athletic programs and their academics. No comparisons as to the best league in those regards. And darn, the ACC won the national championship in football last year. Gee, go figure!

Clemorange writes:

Yeah we let a problem QB go and where did he visit? Alabama

TigerNE writes:

in response to Clemorange:

Yeah we let a problem QB go and where did he visit? Alabama

Who?

Clemorange writes:

Chad Kelly. He took a visit to Alabama a few weeks after we dismissed him for behavior/attitude issues. I think we let him go shortly after the spring game. He threw a little hissy fit on the sidelines that day because the coaches elected to punt on a 4th and short. And then there was some words exchanged after he was passenger in a fender bender. Just multiple maturity issues. I've read reports that this stemmed from high school.

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

in response to Clemorange:

Chad Kelly. He took a visit to Alabama a few weeks after we dismissed him for behavior/attitude issues. I think we let him go shortly after the spring game. He threw a little hissy fit on the sidelines that day because the coaches elected to punt on a 4th and short. And then there was some words exchanged after he was passenger in a fender bender. Just multiple maturity issues. I've read reports that this stemmed from high school.

I only know what I read online about what went on with Kelly. I have a feeling you are right about his problems dating back to his high school days. He more than likely felt he was entitled to do things like he wanted because he was suppose to be good and his famous uncle. I don't know that to be a fact but, more than likely that was his big problem. The coaches will let a little bit of "junk" go but only to a point. They probably did the right thing, especially with Deshaun Watson on the team. Good point you made. I love the phrase you used: hissy fit. I'm 61 years old and can clearly remember my mother telling me all the time, " throwing your little hissy fit won't get you anything but a switch". Hard not to remember that, especially when she made me go break the swith off the plant or whatever it was I broke it off of.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

in response to MoncksTater:

I see absolutely no reason that as long as Dabo continues with his vision in facilities upgrades and his recruiting plan that Clemson cannot find and replace each years losses with the next cycles touted recruits. Clemson IS special , and when kids come to Clemson for the first visit that most certainly shows up and helps our chances going into signing them.
If schools in the middle of nowhere like Oregon and Mizzou can claim elite recruits and be considered nationally relevant then there is little doubt that Clemson University should expect the same .
Swinney has had an incredible beginning , and when he rights the ship against Sackerlina (and he will) and solves the juco conundrum (and he will ) there will be even better recruiting results ...although with the last three cycles one could argue that it really couldn't stand to get that much better in Tigertown .
GO TIGERS !!!

Being in the middle of nowhere has nothing to do with anything when it comes to college football. The best football programs are usually in rural small towns. If anything, climate has more to do with college football success. The best recruits come from southern states with good weather and more hours of daylight.

You're kidding about Oregon and Eugene being in the middle of nowhere, right? First of all, not that it matters but Eugene has more than twice as many people as Greenville. And second, the biggest and probably only reason Oregon is successful is because they're backed by Phil Knight's deep pockets and the swoosh.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

in response to fasttiger44#293363:

You are so right when talking about the SEC and the recruits not being a good fit. I have commented on that exact thing before. At Clemson, we look at their character and their ability to play football, whereas most SEC schools don't care about character. That is proven almost every year 4 or 5 times at least. Yes, the ACC and Clemson have our share of "problem children" but compared to the SEC is quite mild. The difference in the two conferences is the difference in night and day when it comes to integrity and how they run their athletic programs and their academics. No comparisons as to the best league in those regards. And darn, the ACC won the national championship in football last year. Gee, go figure!

Get off your high horse. If you could grant Dabo 3 wishes, 1 of them would be Alabama's recruiting classes. He'd trade his recruiting class for Saban's in a heartbeat.... Every. Single. Year.

You look at character, right? Your players are classy and don't make throat-slashing gestures or punch opponents and get kicked out of games.

http://msn.foxsports.com/collegefootb...

Oops. Nevermind. And that was in the same game. Well at least your entire team didn't break out in a brawl.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfx_Ma...

Uh-oh! And who can forget this picture gracing USA TODAY.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports...

"It's not like I'm out there shooting people, selling drugs or anything like that". No Yusef, you're just kicking a guy in the head as he lays on the ground but I see your point... at least you're not Pablo Escobar or the DC sniper.

"Take those same people who say punching and kicking is wrong: If somebody was to threaten them or harm them in any way, what are they going to do? Just sit there and take it? No. It's basic human, animal instinct to defend yourself." Yeah Yusef, I have that same animal instinct too to defend myself from people lying face-down on the ground with their hands on their head. I mean, you can't help but kick them in the head when your animal instinct takes over, right?

You stay classy Clemson!

clemvol writes:

in response to YabbaDaboDooDoo:

Get off your high horse. If you could grant Dabo 3 wishes, 1 of them would be Alabama's recruiting classes. He'd trade his recruiting class for Saban's in a heartbeat.... Every. Single. Year.

You look at character, right? Your players are classy and don't make throat-slashing gestures or punch opponents and get kicked out of games.

http://msn.foxsports.com/collegefootb...

Oops. Nevermind. And that was in the same game. Well at least your entire team didn't break out in a brawl.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfx_Ma...

Uh-oh! And who can forget this picture gracing USA TODAY.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports...

"It's not like I'm out there shooting people, selling drugs or anything like that". No Yusef, you're just kicking a guy in the head as he lays on the ground but I see your point... at least you're not Pablo Escobar or the DC sniper.

"Take those same people who say punching and kicking is wrong: If somebody was to threaten them or harm them in any way, what are they going to do? Just sit there and take it? No. It's basic human, animal instinct to defend yourself." Yeah Yusef, I have that same animal instinct too to defend myself from people lying face-down on the ground with their hands on their head. I mean, you can't help but kick them in the head when your animal instinct takes over, right?

You stay classy Clemson!

I have no respect for ANY cheap shot from ANY player from ANY team, none. But I will say anyone can go through any teams history and "cherry pick" dark sided events that have happened. And that's classy???? Interesting.

CstandsforCowtown writes:

in response to fasttiger44#293363:

You are so right when talking about the SEC and the recruits not being a good fit. I have commented on that exact thing before. At Clemson, we look at their character and their ability to play football, whereas most SEC schools don't care about character. That is proven almost every year 4 or 5 times at least. Yes, the ACC and Clemson have our share of "problem children" but compared to the SEC is quite mild. The difference in the two conferences is the difference in night and day when it comes to integrity and how they run their athletic programs and their academics. No comparisons as to the best league in those regards. And darn, the ACC won the national championship in football last year. Gee, go figure!

FSU didn't win a national title on character. Jameis Winston has proven multiple times he's no choir boy. Clemson has had recent "problem children" in Bellamy and Kelly and even the Craig and Cumbie incidents from a few years back were forgettable episodes as well. The SEC and ACC both have their share of bad apples. To say one conference has more character sounds lame.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

in response to clemvol:

I have no respect for ANY cheap shot from ANY player from ANY team, none. But I will say anyone can go through any teams history and "cherry pick" dark sided events that have happened. And that's classy???? Interesting.

I didn't have to cherry pick anything. I only had to go back to last year for the punching and throat-slashing. The brawl has to be the biggest on-field fight in D1 football history. It's not like I dusted off some obscure article about a traffic stop. This was front page national news and embarrassed the entire state of SC.

BTW, I would've never brought it up had it not been for the bulls*** holier-than-thou comments about how Clemson only recruits players with superior character to everyone else. So there you go.

clemvol writes:

in response to YabbaDaboDooDoo:

I didn't have to cherry pick anything. I only had to go back to last year for the punching and throat-slashing. The brawl has to be the biggest on-field fight in D1 football history. It's not like I dusted off some obscure article about a traffic stop. This was front page national news and embarrassed the entire state of SC.

BTW, I would've never brought it up had it not been for the bulls*** holier-than-thou comments about how Clemson only recruits players with superior character to everyone else. So there you go.

"Yabber Dabber" i will agree that NO ONE or NO SCHOOL should claim to have the best moral atheletes than anyone else.Todays world has more distractions and hurdles than ever before for the individuals. Now, we have more schools than just one that has embarrassed this state in some form or another and will likely continue to do so.

TheTruth46 writes:

Yea, Clemmons recruits some really upstanding citizens. But, back to the great recruiting and coaching by Blabbo and Chad...just one question. How many times have they beaten SC?? Just curious.

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